Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Brexit Stephen Donnelly TD says that the government must move immediately to clarify the implications of the removal of the backstop from the phase 1 main Withdrawal Agreement document.

Deputy Donnelly pressed for answers following confirmation by the Department of Foreign Affairs that the backstop would not appear in the legal agreement, but would be part of a separate protocol.

Deputy Donnelly commented. “When we were briefed by the Taoiseach in December, we were assured that the so-called backstop was ‘bulletproof’, ‘rock solid’ and ‘cast iron’. The removal of this guarantee from the legal agreement raises concerns. It allows yet more time for this commitment to be watered down. It separates it from the main body of the Withdrawal Agreement. In anybody’s language, this feels like a political fudge – and when it comes to the Northern Ireland border, that cannot be tolerated.

“Within the December agreement there are three layers of protection from a hard border. The first is that the UK economy will remain fully aligned with the EU. The UK government has said repeatedly that they will not do this. The second is that the UK government propose specific solutions to address the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland. This has not happened either. That leaves us with the backstop as the only remaining option to protect Ireland from a hard Border. It cannot be allowed to fail.

“What is particularly worrying is that the first two layers of protection are to be included in the main body of the Withdrawal Agreement, and only the third, the ‘backstop’, is to be separated out.

“Fianna Fáil has supported the government on the international stage. We are committed to working to get the best possible deal for Ireland. This deal must include upholding the commitments that the Taoiseach has already made. Any backsliding at this point would be disastrous for the people of Ireland, both north and south.”